Oral Health Week 2018 has come and gone but concerns about the state of the nation’s oral health, particularly among its children, linger.
Speaking in a radio interview during Oral Health Week which was observed in Dominica last month, dental therapist, Brenda Joseph, spoke passionately about deteriorating dental health among school children on the island. She recounted that during one of her school visits, 12 out of the 15 students that she had seen were given appointments to come to her clinic.
“I see children with abscesses, I see children with cavities – numerous cavities. I see children with almost all of their teeth… the last time I saw teeth like that was when I was studying,” lamented Joseph who studied in New Zealand in the 1980’s during the Cambodian War when a lot of Cambodian refugees were coming to that country.
“And these children had what we call rampant (dental) scaries and when I say rampant, I mean practically every tooth, and I’m seeing that in Dominica now and sometimes I get upset because you cannot blame the child. You have to blame the parents, the aunties, the uncles, the adults in their life because they are the one giving them the sweet; they are the one giving them the money and naturally a child will buy a sweet. They are the ones who have to be responsible to change this,” Joseph stated.
She reminded parents and guardians that when they neglect their responsibility to preserve the oral health of their children, the children are the ones who suffer.
“When I go to a school and I see children with abscesses it means that that is gross neglect because no parent should have a child with an abscess unattended; no parent should have a child with a swollen face or to hear the teachers say ‘Oh, I have to give that child a pain killer’ because the child was in so much pain. I mean, I’m very passionate about this thing because I don’t like to see children in pain,” she said.
She chastised parents who show intolerance towards their children who have to deal with pain because of a dental problem.
“I’m saying you are the one who caused the pain. You are the one who caused the pain,” Joseph insisted.
Not withstanding the need for increased responsibility on the part of parents, she said things were better before, when there was an adequate number of dental therapists to visit the various schools.
“ Right now, especially in the Roseau District, we need at least three therapists, even four therapists to take care of the population because when you think of it, the population of Roseau is half of Dominica. You cannot have one therapist limping through Roseau. You will never get anywhere,” Joseph argued
Citing the prevalence of CNCD’s in the country, the dental health officer recognized the challenge that parents face in providing proper nutrition for their children but urged them nonetheless, to take seriously their children’s oral health because oral disease, she pointed out, is a chronic disease just like any other. She said parents need to realize that when their children have dental disease, it is a problem for the family and for the schools.
“For example, the child goes to school, teachers have to spend that forty minute period that they have for every class, have to spend part of that time trying to attend to a child who has a tooth ache. The rest of the children are distracted. They are no longer thinking of school; they are thinking of their friend in pain.”
Joseph was a guest on the Jolly’s Pharmacy “Health Vibes” radio programme last week.